India.. An incredible way to start our travel adventures, but what a culture shock it has been. Our flight was really good and we managed to get a decent amount of sleep which has helped us out a lot. Gemma was sat next to a really sweet old Indian lady, the plane was full of Indian grandparents heading home to visit family.
Once we got through customs we were met by our transfer and also another lad on our tour. The drive from the airport to our hotel was an experience in itself. The roads are completely bonkers with vehicles (including mopeds, bicycles, tuk tuks, cars, buses, lorries piled high and even cows pulling carts) going in all directions dodging the people who seem to be strolling down the middle of huge roads. It was quite a shock when we first arrived at the hotel as the locals instantly surrounded us trying to con us into one thing or another, some just starred. However, the hotel (The Grand Inn) was nice, and we soon met some more people from our tour so we felt more comfortable.
After about half an hour in our room saying "oh my god we are actually in India" we decided to be brave and head out on a walk around the local area. Two girls Laurie and Jade also joined us, we didn't get many steps in before we were hassled by the locals trying to convince us we couldn't walk to the market and they would do a good price on tuk tuks... We carried on walking!! We struggled to get down the street because we were constantly being pestered as we stuck out like a sore thumb! We spent about half an hour in chaos then had enough and came back! We then managed to fit in a quick nap before our meeting!
In the evening we had a welcome meeting for the tour and met the full group. Luckily everyone on our tour are really cool and we get on well. A few have already been to Asia so it's been amazing hearing their stories and getting advice. We all went out for dinner together in Delhi, our first official curry!!! The food was amazing, but I'm not to sure about their meat so We are sticking to vegetarian dishes for now! Charlotte loved the butter naan and Gem loved the garlic naan bread it's completely different to the naan we have back in England. On our walk back to the hotel we were approached by small homeless children who would continue to pull our tops and pinch our arms in hope of money. We were told that often the children are set up and the money goes to local gangs so we continued to walk! Although they did pull on my heart strings!!! This trip is already making me realise how unbelievably lucky we are in the UK.
Our group is full of people from all over the world.. England, Australia, Phillaphines, Germany and also America. It's been so interesting talking about my job at ELHAP in comparison to the services available in different countries. The two American girls now work in Abu-Dabi as teachers and after a lengthy conversation it sounds like there isn't any support for people with special needs and how desperate they are for some of their pupils to gain even simple speech therapy etc.
Our first day of our tour was absolutely amazing! To start the day off we wondered around a temple barefooted wearing an Indian gown. We did look rather entertaining! The temple was beautiful and it was a great way to start the week. The temple wasn't the only attraction however, people asked to have photos done with us too!
We spent the morning having a walking tour around New Delhi. This was completely nuts but so much fun. We walked all through the backstreets while Jay our tour guide talked us through some everyday life. We even saw monkeys just chilling on the shop signs and swinging on the telephone lines. We also watched a man making sweets on the streets. The market was very crowded and in some parts quite smelly but it was such an experience, it was like nothing I had seen before. I find the whole lifestyle in India so fascinating yet also really sad because the majority of the people we have seen have nothing and do everything possible for the tiniest amount of money.
We then visited a Sikh mosque which was possibly our favourite part of the day. It was really interesting to hear about their religion and to actually experience prayers for ourselves. The mosque was so bright and vibrant. As we walked in their were three men chanting playing instruments- I have some of this on video. We sat and took it all in for a bit and then went around the back. Jay was explaining that the Sikh's believe strongly in giving back and good karma. There is a kitchen which serves free food and the people that attend the mosque volunteer their time to show good karma. There are many different jobs such as working in the kitchen, peeling the vegetables, serving the food and washing dishes. We were given the chance to make Chapatis with the local women, this was brilliant. It was great to get involved.
We then had a long bus journey (approx 6hrs) from Delhi to Agra. Before we reached our hotel we stopped off at 'Baby Taj' this was a beautiful building that looks like a small version of the Taj Mahal hence the name!
To end the day we all went out for dinner to a local restaurant. We enjoyed a curry buffet for £3 it was so yummy! It was great to try different curries which we probably wouldn't have ordered off the menu ourselves. I have found a new love for paneer (cheese curry) in the past few days! So all in all a great start to our trip :-)